You Survived – “That’s Enough” – How a Line from Dunkirk Speaks to Abuse Survivors

This past weekend, the wife and I went to see the new Dunkirk movie by Christopher Nolan. I’m not going to write a movie review, nor will there be any spoilers, but one interaction toward the very end of the movie did make me think of this blog for a moment.

It’s toward the very end of the movie, after the soldiers have been rescued and have landed back in England. On their way from the boats to a waiting train, there were people handing them food, blankets, etc. and one older gentleman kept telling them “Good job, lads”. To which one of them curtly replied “All we did was survive”.

It was the older gentleman’s response that had me nodding my head in agreement – “That’s enough”.

Now, for historical reference, his response was spot on. The battle for France had been lost. The soldiers trapped at Dunkirk were hopeless, and powerless. They also represented what was left of the British and Allied army at the time. Had they not survived, there would not have been much left to defend the UK from German attack. So, in a very real sense, the simple act of surviving was the best thing they could do. They had to survive Dunkirk so that they could go on and win battles later.

As his words ruminated in my head, I couldn’t help but think of how many child abuse survivors simply survive both childhood and their own struggles in adulthood. Like those returning soldiers, they were powerless to change the outcome, to somehow protect themselves from the abuse. The best thing they could do was whatever it took to survive. To get off that beach of abuse, into a boat and across the channel. For many of us, the other side of that channel was simply becoming an adult. Moving away from our abusers, getting to a place where we could protect ourselves from further abuse, etc. But, landing on the other side of the channel was not the end of the war. From there, it was on to a train, and eventually back to fighting the enemy.

For us, the train is there. It’s not taking us back to a fight against a physical enemy anymore, but it is going to require us to board and head off to our future lives.

You survived, you are here. Well done. For what you had to deal with, it’s enough to be able to say those words.

That’s enough.

Now get on the train. You have a life to live. One that will be filled with struggles and failures, but also with laughter, joy, love and success, if you keep at it.

And for every day you get to the end of on this trip. I’ll say it again.

That’s enough.

By surviving, you’ve done enough to guarantee another day to fight for yourself. For today, well done. Here’s to tomorrow.

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